What constitutes good customer service never comes down to just one individual factor, and to further complicate things, no two organisations are alike enough for there to be one umbrella approach that suits every company equally well!
While excellent customer service means different things to different people, everyone can list several things that they class as poor customer service, such as problems getting through on the phone, being shuffled around several departments, stock responses to emails, and valuable manpower hours being lost on hold on the phone listening to elevator music!
If you already utilise an extranet as part of your business or organisation, or are wondering about the benefits of setting one up, you are no doubt already aware of some of the core services that a good extranet can provide for you.
However, outside of these core operations, you can actually use your extranet to enhance your current customer service protocols, and provide your partners and clients with quick, comprehensive online access to the information or help that they need.
Read on to learn more about how you can use your extranet to enhance your customer service.
How to Get Started with a Customer Extranet
First, you will need to identify the needs and challenges of your clients and potential extranet users, and their preferred methods for gaining access to information and support from you. This can vary depending on your organisation and what you do, and so taking the time to assess and analyse the needs and desires of your clients, and how you can best deliver them, is a vital first step.
Putting your extranet to work for your clients not only provides them with a more positive user experience, and therefore a better perception of your company or organisation, it can also help you to streamline your business model, and free up valuable manpower hours that might otherwise be spent juggling multiple phone calls and email requests for information and chasing up the necessary data to answer such requests.
Logistics and freight companies were one of the first types of business to put the extranet to work in this way, by providing online parcel and delivery tracking that can be updated in real-time by their hubs and delivery drivers. These could be viewed in a linear fashion at the click of a mouse by the individual or organisation with the relevant tracking number.
This quickly transformed the way in which customers today manage and schedule their collections and deliveries, giving organisations that operate such systems a huge lead over the competition. This competition was quickly left behind with busy, chaotic call centre operations and long phone queues of clients wishing to track their deliveries or schedule pick-ups, while their previous clients had already moved on to competitors that were offering quick, easy to use online booking and tracking systems.
Putting your extranet to work
To benefit from the customer service potential of your extranet and put it to work effectively, it is important to make sure that the information that you wish to share is accessible across a wide variety of different devices. Today, clients expect to be able to access such information via tablets and smartphones as well as via a desktop PC!
If your extranet portal is unable to support a wide range of different operating systems and devices or fails in the functionality department when moving between different platforms, your customers will soon get fed up and go elsewhere!
As well as enhancing your remote or automated customer service systems via your extranet, for certain types of organisations and business settings, providing your customer-facing staff with access to the extranet whilst dealing with customers can also help to improve the service that they can offer, and potentially boost sales.
Whether your employees are handling a phone call or dealing with a client face to face, being able to access your extranet and the information pertinent to the enquiry to hand enables your staff to provide a seamless, professional service. This leaves your customers impressed with their competence and commitment to fulfilling their needs.
For retail or sales-based organisations, on-the-spot access to a PC or tablet that permits extranet access for your staff or clients across your wider organisation can help users to source products and services from other stores, arrange home deliveries on the spot, or provide information and support that can help your staff to deal with the customer’s enquiry.
Companies and organisations that provide services rather than products should not feel that the extranet is of limited use to them when it comes to customer service, as the extranet has plenty of customer service applications for non-goods based businesses too!
Providing an extranet portal for your clients can allow them to share knowledge and information with you, track in real time what is happening on their behalf, and enable the sharing of concepts, suggestions, and graphic data, either face to face or remotely. This facilitates brainstorming and forwards progress and satisfies your clients’ interest in what you are doing on their behalf.